I Feel the Need, the Need to Read! by Tiffany Oppelt

Hello, my name is Tiffany and I am a reader.  Always have been and always will be.  Reading is more than a hobby or a pleasurable activity.  It is a true need in my life.


It all started early.  I don’t remember learning to read.  I clearly remember the day the words began to make sense to me.  I was about five years old and sitting at the kitchen table with the Sunday comics.  I got up to ask my mom to help me with a word and I never looked back.


From that day forward, I was unstoppable.  Aided in large part by extremely supportive parents and grandparents, as well as key teachers and librarians, I became a voracious reader.


Books were my constant companion throughout my childhood.  I received countless books as gifts.  I haunted my public and school libraries.  I would lose myself in stories, making new friends and visiting new places.  I would get so caught up that the rest of the world would fall away. One particularly memorable time this happened was in fourth grade, I got caught with Bunnicula under my desk when I should have been doing my Language Arts work.


I kept my reading habit throughout my grade school career eagerly devouring any book that came my way. In so doing, I became especially popular at book report time.  I always knew reading was important to me, but it took a while to realize how essential it is to my very being.


Funny enough, a career with books didn’t enter my mind when I first went to college.  I was a broadcasting major and was immediately inundated with the cumbersome mountain of required reading for my liberal arts core.  While doing this required reading, I felt myself becoming more and more unsatisfied.  I was having a great time and making a bunch of new friends, but something was missing.  Something important that I just couldn’t put my finger on.


One day I was studying in my university library and happened to wander in to the youth collection.  I prowled through the shelves looking for my old favorites from childhood, and discovering tempting new titles.  I checked out three books that day and hightailed it back to my dorm.  Curled up in my bed, I opened one of the books and began to read.  As I read the words they worked into my brain and pierced my heart.  I continued and felt my world go right.  That’s when it hit me.  Reading was my missing piece!  I was so busy trying to keep up with my academic work that I had completely let pleasure reading slide.  In doing that, I was denying myself a very big piece of me–the piece that fell in love with books and reading as a child.  Simply put, I needed to read in order to feel balanced.


From that day on I had a policy to read for fun every day.  I renewed my love of children’s books, and was constantly at the youth collection.  My sophomore year I finally figured out that my heart really wasn’t in broadcasting, but in books.  I changed my major to elementary education with a school library minor, and children’s books became my life.  I was completely happy and fulfilled with my choice.


Even now, with my college days nearly a decade behind me, I still have my “read for fun every day” policy.  And if I don’t adhere to it faithfully, I feel out of balance.


I completely get Logan Pearsall Smith’s sentiment when he says, “People say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”  Each day I fulfill my need. As an elementary school librarian I strive to instill that need in a future generation of readers.

Tiffany Oppelt is the teacher-librarian at Cedar Heights Elementary School in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where daily she strives to get kids hooked on reading.  You can connect with her on Twitter (@librarytif) or on her (sadly sporadically updated) reading blog: http://missoppeltsreadingadventures.blogspot.com